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Encourage Healthy Mistakes and Risks

For: Parents, Teachers

Tags

Social-Emotional Learning/Growth Mindset All Ages Strategy

Skills

Anxiety Flexible Thinking Verbal Reasoning Abstract Reasoning

Encourage Healthy Mistakes and Risks

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
— Albert Einstein

Students will develop a healthy attitude about mistakes if adults model productive responses to their own mistakes and respond with genuinely positive responses to a student's mistakes.

How To Apply It!

  1. View mistakes as both a learning experience for the student as well as insight for the adult on how to provide appropriate help or instruction.
  2. Adults always want to distinguish between careless mistakes and a lack of understanding. Where there is a lack of understanding, the adult needs to dig further to understand the child's thinking. Adults should begin the explanation with, "I see that you did this... I'm guessing you were thinking this?" This approach will open the conversation and help clarify the child's thinking, both for the child and the adult. If we miss the root of the child's error, that incorrect assumption is likely to repeat itself over time.
  3. Discussions of mistakes should always include concrete next steps to avoid the mistake in the future, otherwise the student might simply repeat the same mistake. Alternatively, with a new approach, the student might be more likely to succeed and develop more self-confidence.
  4. Praise the effort that came as a result of taking on a risk or a challenge, whether or not the outcome was a success. This will encourage students to push their thinking and want to take on challenges even at the risk of not succeeding.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research shows that students with a growth mindset respond better to mistakes and are more likely to persevere and succeed over the long term, particularly as work requires more complex analysis rather than rote memorization. Children learn as much, if not more, from their mistakes as they do from succeeding, when mistakes are viewed as a natural part of learning rather than as an something to be embarrassed about. The importance of healthy risk taking is detailed in the Aspen Institute's The Practice Base for How We Learn.